Advertising in Public

Some things are better off private. And advertising may be one of those things.

Lately, cities throughout the U.S. have been considering selling space in public areas to corporations looking to advertise to a wider audience in new out-of-home venues. The purpose is to raise additional funds that will go directly to cities that are in or heading toward debt.For example, Boston has considered selling the names of its subway stations to the highest bidder (after all, it works with arena names). But residents are worried that such blatant consumerism will tarnish the tone of the rustic, classy city. They’re also concerned about names changing whenever contracts expire, causing confusion about how they — not to mention tourists — will successfully navigate the city.

New York already initiated a policy of selling ads on public transportation cards (the ones most residents swipe to get to and from work everyday), which wasn’t met with much rebuke. But the city now wants to begin placing advertisements in public parks. Those who love to visit the city’s famed parks go to get away from buildings, signs and chatter — they want to stay immersed in nature. And is it just a matter of time before even city parks begin to look like Times Square?

Locally, Florida’s facing a smaller fight: There’s a continuous battle statewide about whether private citizens or companies can post excessive signage on their lawns and in the grass (such as medians and curbs around town), which is illegal for anyone to do but the state itself. Is a sign advertising fast cash for gold OK? Is a sign for a missing puppy a travesty?

These conflicts raise numerous questions about how an infiltration of advertising can actually harm communities, and what the sanctity of public spaces is — especially in cash-strapped cities looking to use the funds raised to repairs roads, infrastructures and community programs.

How is advertising on public transit different than selling the names of public spaces? How is a charitable sponsorship or a commemorative namesake different than a sale? How is giant OOH signage, like a billboard along the road, different than posting signs in a park?

These aren’t questions that everyone shares an opinion on — but we’d love to hear yours. And most importantly, are you willing to pay more taxes to keep more advertising out of sight?

Recent Posts